Posted by: karanoel | November 6, 2010

Trading one keyboard for another

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21

When I sat down to write last night, I could hear the lonely cries of the forgotten object that nearly bumps my elbow when I’m typing at my nifty new work station. I yielded to its call, trading my green wooden chair for the cushioned piano bench, a pleasing change for my backside. With my George Winston songbook propped up in front of me, I flung my fingers onto the dusty keys and jumped into a unique rendition of Pachelbel Kanon. I doubt Winston or Pachelbel would have recognized the piece, but I could sense the joy of the keyboard as it belted out notes. And my heart was glad to be playing this instrument I love.

But it has been a battle, this love of piano. About once a decade, I launch into lessons with new hopes and expectations. But it is work. I want to be good right away and I’m not. I want to get good with practice, but that doesn’t seem to happen either. So I quit – because I am busy or can’t afford it or don’t have time to practice. But that is all b.s. I quit because I am fearful and lazy.

It is not just piano either. I make declarations of all sorts of interests and passions, identifying with them and spending money on tools to learn them. But the moment I hit a bump – heck, the moment I anticipate the possibility of a bump – I run away as if being chased by ravenous beasts with gleaming eyes, matted fur, and discolored drool dripping from large, exposed fangs. Or I just pretend not to care anymore. A passing phase, you know?

There is an entire shelf in my bedroom dedicated to books on learning French and Spanish. It may lead one to think that I’m fluent, or at least conversational, in one or both of these languages. Don’t be fooled; I’m not. I know bits of each, but instead of investing in doing the hard work of learning more, I binge on words I already know, intoxicating myself with the foreign sounds or the shape of my mouth as they dance out. I indulge in pretend conversations that are completely meaningless because I don’t know enough words or grammar to speak a whole sentence.

It’s not so different from the way I play piano; constantly returning to the parts that please my fingers and ears, skipping by the ones that require any kind of exertion. There have been spurts of earnest effort, but I’m wondering if they were anything but short-lived experiments intended to prove the pointlessness of labor and let me off the hook. I can be pretty tricky.

The reality is that I want to be good without doing the work of getting there. But anyone who has excelled at anything has labored to get there, and has made sacrifices in pursuit of their passions. Even those pesky prodigies. I’m not saying ability isn’t a factor. It is. I won’t ever play like a concert pianist or speak like a French actress. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t play or speak. To the contrary, I should do all I can and play with all my heart.


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